• Paul Peter Nicolai

Only Human-Made Works are Copyrightable in the U.S.

Updated: Jun 17

The U.S. Copyright Office Review Board refused copyright protection of a two-dimensional artwork created by artificial intelligence, stating that the Office will refuse to register a claim if it determines that a human being did not create the work.


The applicant, an advocate for AI IP rights, named himself as the copyright claimant. The application included a unique transfer statement: “ownership of the machine,” and further explained that the work “was autonomously created by a computer algorithm running on a machine.” The applicant sought to register the work as a work-for-hire because he owns the Creativity Machine.


The Review Board relied on the Office’s compendium of practices and Supreme Court precedent dating back to 1879 to hold that the U.S. Copyright Office will not register a claim if it determines that a human being did not create the work.


The Review Board also denied the argument that the work made for hire doctrine allows non-human persons like companies to be authors of copyrighted material. The Board explained that works made for hire must be prepared by an employee or by parties who expressly agree in a written instrument that the work is for hire.


Because the applicant did not claim any human involvement in the work, the Board did not address under which circumstances human involvement in machine-created works might meet the statutory requirements for copyright protection.